(734) 635-4143

1923 Geddes Road, Ann Arbor, MI

Message from the Staff and Board

May 20, 2017

Dear Friends and Supporters of WISM,

Over the past nine months the Staff and Board of the Waldorf Institute of Southeastern Michigan have been deeply considering the future of WISM. The organization now known as WISM started in 1991, growing after the original teacher education program in North America left Detroit, moved to New York and became Sunbridge Institute. Since 1991 the organization has been led by a number of amazing Directors and very strong Boards, and graduated a lot of students into the work of Waldorf Education.

The current phase of WISM began in 2006 when Siân Owen-Cruise became the Director and the contracts with the schools were soon developed. These contracts have supported the organization for the past 10 years, allowing us to provide professional development and mentoring services to the three local schools. In 2009 Margot Amrine stepped in and became Director when Siân needed to focus her attention on her early childhood work. Over the past few years a Core Group of Margot Amrine (Director), Siân Owen-Cruise (Regional Services), David Owen-Cruise (Business Manager) and Judie Erb (Board Chair) has led and steered the Institute.

As this Core Group has worked over the past twelve months some deep realities about the health of WISM have become clear. The truth is that even with the support of the Detroit Waldorf School and the Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor (through the school contracts) WISM is no longer financially viable, we do not have the income to support the programs we offer. We can see this in a number of ways:

    • Our classes are full and vibrant but the large majority of students are attending as non-paying professional development students. This is wonderful from our perspective as it allows us to have such a strong program, but financially the support of the schools does not cover our overhead costs.
    • Over the past four years the Core Group members have all needed to do more and more volunteer work for WISM to keep things viable and strong. Courses are regularly taught without pay, administrative work is paid at a very low, or no salary, and visiting teachers are fed and housed without reimbursement. While we don’t mind doing this in the short run it does highlight the reality that the organization is not doing well financially.
    • The Board has worked over the past three years to improve our financial situation but there are some unavoidable core costs to running the Institute – from our memberships in AWSNA and WECAN to insurance to the need for a Business Manager to keep transcripts and tax filings straight. It is clear that even before offering a single class for the year we have an overhead of about $40,000. The School contracts pay $18,000 of this, but we struggle to cover the rest annually. Over the past three years we have run fundraising campaigns, explored grant funding, and held some fundraising events (such as the High School Conference) but none of these has been able to provide the level of funding we need to be sustainable.

At the May 6, 2017 Board Meeting the Core Group, after deep consideration and reflection, recommended to the Board of WISM, that WISM begin a three year process of closing, and the Board unanimously supported the proposal.

This means that over the next three years WISM will carefully and caringly move to close. Our last day of operation will be July 31, 2020. We are choosing to take three years to do this so that all students who wish to complete their full programs in either Early Childhood or Elementary Education will be able to do so. We will be offering classes, both here in Ann Arbor and in Nashville, TN, offering independent study opportunities, supervising individual projects, and helping to arrange practicums. Each student wishing to complete his or her certificate will have an individual completion plan, and we are committed to ensuring that everyone who wants to can graduate.

The current students of WISM are our first priority in this transition process, and the three year closing plan is designed to support the best possible outcome for each individual student. Over the coming few months we will complete individual completion plans with each student. Our goal is to have all the completion plans written by July 31, 2017. As we move through the three years the resources of WISM will quickly shrink even further (as we will be without the school contracts immediately, and within eighteen months will no longer be offering classes) so our goal is to have most of the completion plans finished by September 30, 2018.

We thank you for your support over the past 26 years of WISM, and appreciate your care and support going forward. We want you to know that the Core Group is not sad about this ending, but instead see it as the completion of a healthy process, one that we are blessed to be able to complete in love and care.


Margot Amrine, WISM Director
Judie Erb, WISM Board Chair
Siân Owen-Cruise, WISM Regional Services Director
David Owen-Cruise, Business Manager